Send Me No Flowers
by Kristin Gabriel
(Harl. L&L #62, $3.50, G) ISBN 0-373-44062-6
**
The city of Love, Michigan, generates much of its revenue from its Valentine's Day festivities and has capitalized on its name. It sponsors a Miss Valentine's Day contest, has parades with floats and bands and even has a statue of Cupid in a downtown fountain. Perhaps Love is in the temperate part of Michigan, where bikinis and parades are considered the norm in February. A quick check in the atlas showed the Love is fictitious. Now I always check if I'm uncertain, especially since I discovered that Lake Woebegon isn't real, either.

Therapist Dr. Rachel Grant is tired of all the hoopla that surrounds Valentine's Day. Part of her disgust stems from her ex-fiancé, who left her last Valentine's Day on a bug hunting expedition to Africa . . . without even telling her. Rachel decides to boycott Valentine's Day, with the help of her therapy group and some close friends.

The city fathers, fearing the economic impact if Rachel's boycott succeeds, decide to utilize its big guns to thwart Rachel's boycott. Their thinking is that if Rachel has her own Valentine, she'll give up on her boycott. Their hunky new mayor, Drew Lavery, is commandeered to see if he can succeed in getting Rachel to change her mind. Don't you love this sexist thinking?

When Drew first meets Rachel in her office, she mistakenly assumes that he's her next patient, one who needs treatment for his impotency. What could have been light-hearted instead comes off as clichéd and as a blatant attempt at unabashed manipulation.

In the second half, just as Rachel and Drew are becoming interested in each other, Rachel's ex appears, with a story of being lost in Africa. All is resolved in his eyes when he presents Rachel, his lovebug, with a newly discovered dung beetle, named for her. Rachelona Cyanella. Myself, I still prefer flowers and jewelry. I don't think Rachel was too thrilled, either.

Send Me No Flowers contains no true humor, only obvious attempts at forced humor. There's no subtle humor, only heavy handed attempts. A theme involving Rachel and Twinkies is a good example of the forced humor. Whenever she's stressed, Rachel wants Twinkies. How many times are we supposed to find humor in her Twinkies fixation? Too many for me.

Rachel's best friend Gina, newly separated, provides most of the humor in this story as she rejects new and more torturous ways to kill her ex. She reads books on how to cut brake lines and considers pineapple shaped grenades (the ex likes fruit). Gina does provide the most natural feeling humor, but her antics only elicited grins and no real laughter.

I thought that the love and laughter in this book were minuscule. The humor, what there was of it, was too slapstick, too juvenile and too outlandish. Perhaps I like more subtlety. But, then, I like Valentine's Day and wouldn't want to boycott it. Here's hoping that you'll be more successful and will have better luck appreciating this story.

--Linda Mowery


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